Covid restrictions lead to change of venues for U18 Schools and Youth Cup and Shield quarter-finals

Matches will not now be played at neutral venues

Biggar host Hawick Youth in the quarter-finals of the U18 National Youth Cup. Image: Nigel Pacey
Biggar host Hawick Youth in the quarter-finals of the U18 National Youth Cup. Image: Nigel Pacey

SCOTTISH RUGBY has made a change to the venues for the Scottish Schools and the National Youth Under-18 Cup and Shield quarter finals, which will not now go ahead at BT Murrayfield, the DAM Health Stadium and Oriam, as originally scheduled, and instead will be played at the ‘home’ team’s ground. 

The change was necessary because of current Covid restrictions in place for the three-week period from 26th December which prohibit adult contact sport indoors (other than at elite and professional levels). Crucially ‘adult’ in this context refers to players who are 18 or over. The age eligibility for the  Cup and Shield competitions is under 18 on 1st September 2021. Most players will still be under-18 as of now but there is a small number already 18 and who therefore cannot play indoor contact sport under the current Covid regulations.

That has forced the abandonment of the plan to stage two schools and two youth Cup quarter-finals at Oriam indoor arena, leading to a rejigged schedule to play the games at the ‘home’ team’s ground instead. Although the other Cup ties  inked for neutral venues could have been played, fairness and consistency dictated that they had to follow the same route.


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All of which means that there are now winners and losers in the rewired list of venues. Cup holders Stewart’s-Melville College, instead of playing at the Dam Health Stadium, will travel to Perthshire to face Glenalmond College, a journey with which the Inverleith side is not unfamiliar.

“We’ve played Glenalmond away in three of our last four Cup campaigns,” noted Stuart Edwards, the head coach of Stewart’s-Melville. “We’re expecting Glenalmond to have a big support on the touchline. But that will be good for us as well,” added Edwards, whose side are expected to be three or four short of full strength.

East Conference U18 runners-up, Dollar Academy, however, will now enjoy home advantage for their tie against Hutchesons’ Grammar School. Dollar have excelled this season and are one of the sides tipped to win the cup. Even so Dollar’s coach, Don Caskie, has instilled in his charges the need to be at their best.

“We’re taking nothing for granted and have prepared thoroughly for what we expect to be a strong, competitive encounter against the West Conference winners,” he said. “The boys are all fit and are looking to kick on from the disappointment of losing narrowly to Stewart’s-Melville College pre Christmas.”

Home advantage has fallen also to perennially strong Cup competitors, George Watson’s College, who are matched against  Dundee High at Myreside.  But there will be a travel requirement for past Cup winners, Merchiston Castle School, who take on St Aloysius College at Millerston.

 

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In the Youth U18 Cup quarter-finals, the venue changes meant that Boroughmuir were initially saved a journey to Tayside for their tie with Ellon, but have had to revert to the original venue of Dundee Regional Performance Centre after other matches at Meggetland ruled out the use of the club’s Edinburgh ground.

Moreover, it is understood that  Ellon had some issues with travel meaning a later kick-off. “We want to play the game this weekend so agreed that we would go back to 4.30pm at the Dundee Performance Centre – not really ideal with the time – but another game [Moray/Huntly v Dumfries Saints] was arranged for 2pm already so we need to play after that game,” explained Scott Anderson, the Boroughmuir U18 coach.  The other club now favoured with home advantage is Biggar, who face Hawick Youth at Hartree Mill.

Hawick remain undefeated in the Borders Semi Junior League, adding to their string of successes last Saturday with a 38-3 win over Alnwick. The club’s 3G pitch at the Volunteer Park was ruled unplayable because of frost but fortunately one of the grass pitches in Wilton Park had thawed sufficiently to allow the game to go ahead.

“It was great to get a really good run out on a grass pitch as we prepare for this coming weekend against Biggar which has been moved from Oriam down to Biggar’s ground due to the Covid restrictions,” reflected the Hawick Youth U18 manager, Paul McDonald. “In the end, it was another convincing league win for us with a lot of positives but also a few things we know we need to work hard on this week.”

Hawick secured their win over Alnwick with a brace of tries each by flankers Ruaidhri Forbes and captain Marcus Brogan, plus one apiece by centre Scott Young and lock forward and player of the match Will Ryan. Two of the conversions were kicked by stand-off Justin Tait and a further two from his replacement Owain Gray. It was the only Borders Semi Junior League match to go ahead last weekend.

Another Borders side going well is Peebles U16sm who are unbeaten in their league and in sevens tournaments this season and are certainly a side to watch as they progress through the age groups.

Peebles Reds, as they are known, confirmed their form this season by defeating North Edinburgh Vikings 53-5 at Inverleith last weekend, running in nine tries, two by Aiden McDowell and one each from Robbie Hardie, Callum Burnett-Godfrey, Jamie Fairbairn, Callum McRobert, Bailey Fairbairn, Myles McLaughlin and Chris Thomson, who also kicked  two conversions with the other two ‘extras’ struck by Ross Wolfenden.

U18 National Schools Cup Quarter Final Draw (all Sat 15th January) –

  • George Watson’s College v High School of Dundee @Myreside – kick-off 10.30am
  • Glenalmond College v Stewart’s-Melville College @ Glenalmond –  kick-off 10.30am
  • Dollar Academy v Hutchesons’ Grammar School @ Dollar  – kick-off 10.30am
  • St Aloysius College v Merchiston Castle School @ Millerston– kick-off 10.30am

U18 National Shield Quarter Final Draw (all Sat 15 January) –

  • Queen Victoria School v Strathendrick/Balfron HS @ QVS – kick-off 10.30am
  • St Columba’s v Morrison’s Academy @ Scotstoun Stadium – kick-off 10.30am
  • Knox Academy/Haddington v Loretto School @ Haddington – kick-off 10.30am
  • Preston Lodge HS v Lasswade HS @ Prestonpans – kick-off 10.30am

U18 National Youth Cup Quarter-Final Draw (15th Jan 2022) –

  • Boroughmuir v Ellon @ Dundee Regional Performance Centre – kick-off  4:30pm [QF1]
  • Kelso Harlequins v Stirling County @ Croft Park – kick-off 2:00pm [QF2]
  • Biggar v Hawick Youth @ Hartree Mill – kick-off 2:00pm [QF3]
  • Livingston v West of Scotland @ Livingston – kick-off 2:00pm [QF4]
    • Semi-finals to be played Saturday 29 January 2022 (venues tbc) with winner of quarter-final 1 v winner of quarter-final 2 and winner of quarter-final 3 v winner of quarter-final 4.

U18 National Youth Shield Quarter-Final Draw –

  • Deeside/Garioch v Earlston HS/Melrose Wasps @ Banchory – kick-off 2:00pm [QF1]
  • Whitecraigs v Aberdeen Wanderers @ Newton Mearns – kick-off 2:00pm [QF2]
  • Dunfermline v Gala Wanderers @ Netherdale – kick-off 3:00pm [QF3]
  • Moray/Huntly v Dumfries Saints @ Dundee Regional Performance Centre – kick-off 2:00pm [QF4]
    • Semi-finals to be played Saturday 29 January 2022 (venues tbc) with winner of quarter-final 1 v winner of quarter-final 2 and winner of quarter-final 3 v winner of quarter-final 4.

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About Alan Lorimer 239 Articles
Scotland rugby correspondent for The Times for six years and subsequently contributed to Sunday Times, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Scotsman, Herald, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald and Reuters. Worked in Radio for BBC. Alan is Scottish rugby journalism's leading voice when it comes to youth and schools rugby.

1 Comment

  1. Not to steal Hawick and Biggars thunder. But well done GHA youth for winning the conference, after all leagues mean more than cups 😉

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